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Not Quite A Full Deck !
Rules and Other Annoying Things, ....

This will be the most serious and sincere article I will ever write in this column.  For those who don't know me well, I am a 100% stickler for rules and protocol.  Contrary to what some people think, rules aren't made to be broken.  Rules exist to ensure equity in whichever venue they appear.  We have referees in hockey and basketball, umpires in baseball, and Speakers of the House in government.  All of these people are there to enforce rules and discipline infractions.  Bridge is no different.

The ACBL has established an extensive rule book that has been fine-tuned over the years by the best of the best bridge scholars.  When these rules are followed, the playing field in bridge is equal for everyone.  In every environment there can be some reason to be silent or soft on some rules.  Unfortunately, when this happens there is often a snowball effect that leads to other rules being broken or mangled.  There is really only one way to fix this, .... either forget about almost all the rules of bridge, or enforce them all.  I think for the Algoma Cambrian Club, the time for the latter is upon us.

Viewing the traveller on the Bridgemate, in this author's opinion, is 100% unethical.  It has been a hotly contested topic over the past year.  It was thought that the concensus is that most members want to see the travellers, so that must be the right thing to do.  It was argued at a membership meeting, and people wanted it brought to a vote.  Two things put an end to that thought.  The first was that is was the concensus of the Directors that viewing the travellers was receiving unauthorized information, and as such, against the rules of the ACBL.  Although the rule book does not specifically identify this misuse, they concede that individual clubs could make isolated rulings on this topic.  Since our Directors were opposed to viewing the traveller, the ruling was leaning in that direction.  The Board of Directors however, decided to try and reach a happy medium with all involved.  Firstly, they decided that the club would not be micro-managed every time a dispute occurred and turn to a vote of the membership.  The club will not be managed by plebecites, but rather the Board of Directors elected to do so.  In weighing the information, the Board decided to allow the viewing of the travellers silently, with no information being exchanged between players.  The Bridgemates were to be viewed quickly by the players at the table wishing to do so, and returned to the North player immediately.  This author (in my capacity as a player and nothing more), has observed this practice being violated far too often.  As a player, I am about to challenge the viewing of the travellers to rectify this, .... not a threat, but be forewarned.

Another forum on our website has been trying to guide players with the proper use of terms and rules in the "I Did't Know That!" articles.  The writers of those articles are frustrated that their efforts to guide people into proper play and ethics has almost been ignored.  The improper use of "alerts" and "announcements", apparent use of unauthorized information, the lack of improperly filled out convention cards, the referring to convention cards during bidding, the keeping of notes on the scorecards during bidding and the play, and the dummy's wandering hand suggesting which card for declarer to play are all blantant violations of some ACBL rule that our members seem to think should be allowed during play.

It has gotten to the point whereby violators become "annoyed" or "offended" if this is suggested, or if a director is called.  The player looking for protection or rectification from the director should never feel intimidated in their want or need to call a director.  Thankfully, our directors (for ther most part) don't feel intimidated, but they must be called in order to make proper rulings.

Now I am speaking as the club President in saying that I think our club needs to establish how we will enforce the rules of the ACBL.  We need to have all the directors on board to make uniform, just decisions.  We also need compliance (not necessarilly acceptance) from players in the club. 

The arguement from some people is that our club is a "social" club.  News Alert, .... almost ALL clubs are "social", but they still have rules to follow.  Following the rules won't make it any less "social" to play, but will make it a fair playing field, with almost no reason to feel disatvantaged or disenfranchised.  It is a fallacy when the offenders feel that the solution to the problem is to simply allow the non-offenders to also break the rules to make the playing field level.  The non-offenders know the rules and wish to follow them.

I promise my next article will be much more lighthearted.  By for now.

I Will Never Understand This Game!

I have been giving lessons to new bridge players over the past two years at Sault College.  There seems to be a refreshing interest by people to learn the game of bridge.  To many, I think it is more of a curiousity that ends up entrapping them to keep with it and learn more.

 

I usually start off the classes by having everyone give a short talk about why they are taking the lessons and what they expect to get from the lessons.  Almost everyone expresses that they have played limited card games such as poker or euchre, and the idea of bridge "interests" them.  Class number three is usually the benchmark I use to see how many students really are committed to learning, and how many are ready to drop out.  Thankfully over the past two years, most have stuck it out to the end, .... for their benefit and our clubs as well.

 

The most common comment by students from lesson three onward however, is, "I don't think I will ever be able to learn all this stuff".

 

Alas, let me tell you now you are not alone in these feelings.  I think every bridge player (myself included) have these misgivings.  When I first started playing bridge, my wife and I were partners at the table for almost three months before we stopped finishing last every night.  That night when we finished second or third last was a night to celebrate!  Since then, we have managed to elevate our game somewhat to the point of becoming Life Masters, but it wasn't an easy road, .... I don't think it is supposed to be easy!

 

Duplicate bridge is a competitive card game.  Any competitive game should never have an easy road to success, otherwise the challenge would soon fade away and bridge would be delegated to the card games like euchre, cribbage, and rummy.  Remember, bridge is one of four endeavors one can do to deter the onset of Altzheimer's Disease, .... the other three are learning to play chess, learning to play a musical instrument, and learning a second language.  All of these endeavors are not a task to take on lightly, .... so shouldn't leaning to play bridge.

 

As a teacher of bridge, I have to carefully judge the interest and comprehension of the class.  Knowing how much information a class can absorb in a series of lessons and not lose interest is a tightrope I walk every session of classes, .... but I like to push the envelope.  I would like to think most people interested in leaning to play bridge are near the top of the learning curve, and enjoy the challenge.  When I look out into the class and see a glaze come over some of their eyes, I know it is time to stop and take a breath.

 

A class of students that ask a lot of questions is always the best situation for a teacher.  It doesn't mean you are doing a bad job at teaching.  On the contrary, you have got their interest and most questions are asked in a way to expand on something you have said.  I always tell my classes that the only dumb question is the one that isn't asked!

 

It is nice when people show up to take bridge lessons with a partner, .... whether it be a spouse, sibling, or co-worker.  It creates an atmosphere of commitment to follow the lessons to the end.  Those that show up for lessons on their own have to be praised for their courage in entering an unknown venture alone, but the challenge to me is keeping them commited and matching them with a partner.  I always remind my classes of some wise information I was given when I first started playing bridge, .... playing with your spouse (substitute brother, sister, cousin, or friend in here) is not always a good idea.  Knowing your bridge partner to the point of being able to pick out their donut at Tim Horton's is not a good idea.  A good bridge partnership is based on trust and a developed comunication system.  Having a existing relationship with your bridge partner that may lead to assumptions during the game often leads to heated discussions and mistrust in a partnership.  During our play in the classes, I encourage (and often force) people to give up their partners for someone else in the class, .... this almost always leads to new friendships and a successful session of classes.

 

I challenge any of my students to show me where I have mislead them and said that learning bridge would be easy, .... never have, never will.  The one thing I will tell them is to never give up.  When they think they have hit a wall, ask questions, read books and articles, expand your bridge knowledge.  Learning to play bridge is a challenge and a passion that will never end with most players, so when you say, "I will never understand this game", you are probably right, ..... I will move over and make room for you, we are all in the same boat!

New Years Resolutions and Wishes
Once again it is time to list my New Year's Resolutions and wishes as they pertain to playing bridge. 

1 - I wish for a few members of our club to finally attain the status of "Life Master".  If I were to list them I would probably miss a few who have been trying for some time to get there.  My wife Donna and myself were lucky enough to do the trick this past summer, but until you get it done it can be annoying a best.  Some notables who I know are close are Susanne Chiasson, Sharon Lessard, Judy Luzzi, Arlene Robinson, Arlene Smith, Claire Weatherby, and Bruce Yendell.  If I missed you on this list it was purely accidental, .... good luck to all.

2 - I wish that the new people who have joined the club via lessons etc. will stick with the game and enjoy a lifetime of good times and good friends.  I can feel the nervousness in many of them as they play,and all I can tell them is that we were all there at one time. Some of them have learned the game rather quickly,while others are still stuck on a principle or two, ... stick with it, some day that light bulb will come on and there will be no stopping you.

3 - I would hope that some people would develop good bridge etiquette at the table that would make for faster more efficient play.  Two of these irks that stick out to me are the player on opening lead not facing their lead card face down before asking their partner if they have any questions, and before writing the contract down in their convention  holder.  The other is that they learn that the dummy is not to suggest the play of the cards for the declarer when choosing a card from dummy.  It is time to quit being stubborn and play the game ethically and quickly.

4 - I wish that some new members will come to the plate and volunteer to serve on our executive at the up-coming AGM. Institutions like our club rely solely on volunteers to make thing work, and the work load is definitely not being shared.  Kudos to my fellow executive members for doing a fine job over the year, .... keep up the good work.

5 - I resolve not to step on Mark Brown's toes as he has done an excellent job in taking over the website administration from me.  I will limit myself to this one little corner of the site, and Mark can do his thing on the rest.  Thanks again Mark, and keep up the great work.

6 - I resolve to spend the time it will take to help my mentor partner evolve her game to a higher level.  So far, I have been a little lax in that area, but the new year promises more time to devote to that.

7 - I resolve to play in a few more "out of the city" tournaments this year.  We really enjoyed the tournament in Harris Michigan last summer, so a few more are definitely on the agenda for this year.

8 - Finally, I resolve to learn Puppet Staymen over 1NT as the rest of my partners would like to play it.  I have had the notes on it for a while now, time to do some reading.

It will be interesting to read this article a year from now to see how closely I kept my promises,.....but isn't that why you make these types of lists!

See you next time!
Why Can't I Just Say "No"!
April 3, 2013

In any organization I have ever been involved with, it seems the same people are always the ones to volunteer their time and efforts to make the group run smoothly.  Our bridge club is not any different.  With the recent elections (more like delegation by committee) of the new executive of our club, we can admit to having a couple of new faces to guide our club into the next year.  I would like to acknowledge who these hard working people are right here and now.

We can start off with the grumpy old guy who used to be president, but is now in the role of "Past President".  He doesn't want his name put in print (unless of course it has something to do with a 65+% game), but you all know who he is.  He has paid his dues in spades (pardon the pun) over the last few years holding the club together with a big heart and a strong voice.  He hasn't gone away, but his shoulders should feel a little lighter now.

Taking over as "President" is Gloria.  She has lots of good ideas and as always, an opinion about everything.  Hopefully people go easy on her for the first while, at least until she makes her first "Executive Veto".  She has played around (in different bridge clubs), so nothing should surprise her.  Good luck Gloria.

As some of you may know, Romas has stepped aside as our long time club manager.  His vast knowledge will be passed on to Judy L. who has decided to jump into the "Manager" position with both feet.  Judy's business sense will ensure we keep on the straight and narrow road to being a successful club.  We should also thank her for her past work as the club "Treasurer".

Speaking of the "Treasurer", .... yours truly has taken over that position mainly because no one wanted to do it but somebody has to look after our fortune.  There were no volunteers on the horizon, so I said I would do it, ..... any takers for next year can start stepping forward right now!

Evelyn volunteered for the position of "vice President", and going with that title is "President Elect" as our future club president.  Being new to a position on the executive, it is good that she will get a year to get an idea of what direction the club is taking before she takes over the reins in 2014.  Welcome aboard Evelyn.

Our dedicated "Secretary" is Carol.  So far she has proven to take very meticulous minutes which is sometimes worth its weight in gold points when you return to them to solve a future dispute.  She also does double duty looking after the club library so if you don't see her, it is because she is up to her eyeballs in paper of one kind or another.  Keep up the good work Carol.

I have never really asked him what his real title was, but I do know that Dave R. acts as our tireless liaison with the ACBL.  Rumor had it that he was retiring after countless years of service as well, but he is still hanging in there like a good soldier.  If he does retire, no one will begrudge him that, but we hope his vast knowledge will also be passed on.

Florence M. is also there on the committee as a member at large.  With that general description of what she does, she offers a level head and clear mind on matters of importance, when many of us have one-sided opinions.  She also helps Carol with the club library.  Thanks Florence.

We look forward to two special games most months, .... the Mentor Game, and the Team Game.  Two people have stepped forward to act as conveners for those nights, ..... Arlene S. for the Mentor Game, and Liz for the Team Game.  Because both of these games often have many table involved, there is quite a bit of work to make the nights run smoothly, ..... thanks to these two volunteers.

Two members (Arlene S. and Romas) have volunteered to step forward and arrange partnerships for visitors from out of town.  Their contact phone numbers have been added as a bulletin on our home page of our website.

Of course, the club also runs on several other types of volunteers over the course of the year, .... from directors to people bringing food, to people taking names and money every night.  We shouldn't overlook these these (or any other) volunteer in the club. 

My only hope is that this time next year, I can report that we have several new faces in the mix of the matters of our bridge club.  Remember these people the next time you go home after a fun night (or afternoon) of bridge.  Until next time, .....
IT'S ALL GREEK TO ME!!!
February 1, 2013

As with teaching any subject, you have to put yourself in the mind of the student and try to guess what terminology they will understand without you having to spell it out for them.  Bridge is one of those subjects that has just enough terms to befuddle some of the brightest minds that know nothing about bridge.  Here are just a few examples:

Director - If we called the Director an umpire or referee most people would know immediately what their duties are, but if we don't explain it to them, they think they are about to see a symphony orchestra appear in the room.

BridgeMate - It certainly sounds like you are about to have a bridge partner from Australia sit across the table from you.  Maybe even an angry Australian, once you start to talk about punching him!

Traveller - It is kind of an oxymoron to call something that stays put in the board as something that appears to move around.

Hook(ed) - Once you have been hooked in a hand, it won't take long for this term to sink in.  It is best to explain this term as it is happening.

Convention - When most people hear this word, images of boring speeches and catered food often come to mind.

Vulnerable - When I tell a student they are "vulnerable" they at first relate it to possibly being assaulted.  I tell them sometimes that pretty much sums it up!

Small Slam/Grand Slam - It takes a little explaining to tell students what a small slam is all about, .... but when I talk about a grand slam, they all know it is a bases loaded home run!

Double/Redouble - Now we all know what this means, ..... it's a Timmie's with a refill!

Now I  could gone on for quite a while with examples, but I think you get the picture.  You may think this would never happen, but there has been a student taking lessons that had never played a game of cards before, .... they had to be shown a deck and explained everything right down to the suits and ranking of the cards.  You cannot take anything for granted when teaching new bridge players.

If you are playing with a new player, it can be quite intimidating to be sitting at a table with experienced players and listen to the language they are speaking and not have a clue what they are talking about.  If you have a new or novice player at your table, try to keep the lingo at a level they might understand, and when they get a quizzical look on their face, maybe explain to them what you are saying, ..... remember, there are 4 people at a bridge table, not 3.

This is the first of hopefully many columns I will post here.  This one is rather short and sweet, but I can assure you I can get long winded.  My next column will be my New Year's bridge wish list, .... you'll get the picture then!

Until then, bid 7 No Trump, and play it like you mean it!